What should an Atheist read that is relevant to atheism?
I own ‘Origin of Species’
On a completely different note I own the ‘His Dark Materials’ trillogy.
What would you reccomend I own/read? Preferably stuff to inflate my atheist ego, but I would also welcome books that might make me think twice about my choice of belief system. (FYI lack of belief counts as a belief. I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is no supreme being that could be called ‘God’ which created everything.
Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Sagan’s novel Contact is very good and it deals with the concept of faith and belief in several ways. Different types of beliefs are represented as well as different ‘degrees’ of belief (Christian zealots, moderates, New-Agey types). The protagonist is atheist and faces obstacles because of this, but the story isn’t “Christians Bad, Atheists Good.” The so-so movie does not include the very interesting final chapter from the book. In fact, I still find the ending surprising considering Sagan’s atheism.
An interesting and entertaining work of fiction for you (with historical inclusions that may even be quite accurate) is A History Of The World In 10½ Chapters by Julian Barnes - it touches on a number of religious themes but from an angle I think you’ll find quite satisfying.
Another nod for Sagan, and Smith’s Case Against God
I also have read some Russell and a little Nietzsche Thus Spake Zarathustra and would recommend them both.
I would also recommend Dawkin’s, who is criticized for his scathing comments on dogmatic religion, but as an ex-evangelicalist I find them rather amusing. But he does have the same love and awe of nature that Sagan has, I mean had… That is a reference to another author you should check out if you haven’t yet and that is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
Since this is Cafe Society, from what I remember was that there was a big to-do brewing about the ending of “Contact” (possibly the most disappointing ending to a movie in my life), but that it fizzled once Sagan discovered he had cancer (or it had advanced to such a point that he could no longer be bothered.)
To truly get aa firm grounding for your atheism, study up on the sociology of religion. Books such as The Handbook of the Sociology of Religion contain careful explanations of how the major religions were formed and altered over the centuries for the convenience of each new generation. By seeing inarguable evidence that people have shaped religion since the outset, the argument that it’s eternal and unchanging, and thus God-given, crumbles down. I also recommend When Time Shall be no More by Paul Boyer, which I view as the last word on all end-times related nonsense.
After that, I feel I should put in a word or two for the classics. Bone up on some Erasmus, Maimonides, Voltaire, Spinoza, Nietzsche, and Hegel.
In literature, try Candide, by Voltaire, and Catch-22, by Joseph Heller.
All of these authors would point out that the question of God’s existence is only covered insofar as scientific explanations make Him unnecessary, but:
[ul][li]Cosmology: A Brief History of Time/The Universe in a Nutshell - Hawking. The Elegant Universe - Brian Greene.[/li][li]Star/planet/continent/dinosaur formation - A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bryson (although he gets some Big Bang stuff wrong IMO by positing a nothing-to-something transition.)[/li][li]Evolution: The Blind Watchmaker - Dawkins. You already own Darwin.[/li][li]Consciousness: How The Mind Works - Pinker. (For balance, The Mind Does Not Work Like That! - Fodor). Consciousness Explained - Dennet.[/li]Divine/supernatural experiences: Phantoms in the Brain - Ramachandran. Why People Believe Weird Things - Shermer.[/ul]